Monday, 23 July 2018

Pick of the Litter: NZIFF Review

Pick of the Litter: NZIFF Review


So, here it is - this year's Kedi.

Whereas the tale of Turkish kitties was a story of animals, their surroundings and the people that adopt them, Pick Of the Litter is an unashamed piece of furry kryptonite, determined to deliver some close ups of adorable puppies.

Choosing to follow five Labrador puppies as they undergo training for guide dogs for the blind in the USA is not the most taxing of intentions.

However, Dana Nachman and Don Hardy's documentary is unashamed in its desires and is oblivious to the notion of going deeper in this once-over-lightly piece that just about entertains for its 80 minute run time.
Pick of the Litter: NZIFF Review

Primrose, Poppet, Phil, Potomac and Patriot are all born within the walls of a Guide Dogs building in California and all have the potential to change future owners lives. But not if they fail basic training and their puppy raisers don't meet the mark.

With a couple of the pups passed around different trainers, the interesting parts of the film and the dilemmas which reside within are largely ignored in a brisk and brutally cute piece that's aiming for Hallmark thrills rather than in-depth investigations.

Perhaps the more interesting and knottier elements of the film are dropped in amid the cutesier touches as the dogs are "career changed" (lingo for being moved out of the programme) and disappear from our immediate view.

Questions over the ethics of in-house breeding, what kind of a life that must be, the cost of doing it, both financially and emotionally for the organisation and more specifically the trainers are vaulted over at such speed that it's dizzying.

It's a shame as there are hints of some darkness here that are genuinely worth exploring, and which linger rather than being dug into. Some trainers have the dogs taken from them with a disconnect between the administration and the owners unable to be reconciled; issues over whether there are problems with expectations are hinted at - there's a lot more meat to be explored here, but doesn't get done so.

It's not to say that Pick Of The Litter isn't engaging - certainly, if you're an animal lover, you'll adore it, and you'll end up invested in which of the five pups - if any, given the high rate of failure - make it to the end of the training.

And there's certainly no denying the power of the simplicity of seeing the joy on new owners' faces and prospective lives being changed just by having a dog get through this.

But Pick Of The Litter is very much a once-over-lightly kind of pleasantly presented doco, that lacks deep insight but gives cutesy cuddles - not a bad thing for the winter months, but certainly there's a nagging feeling that a stronger documentary definitely lies within, waiting to be coaxed to the surface.

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